Condoms, Needles, and Iranian Moderates

Science, technology, and life.
April 17 2008 12:48 PM

Condoms, Needles, and Iranian Moderates

This morning's news brings a face-slapping AFP story from the land of the mullahs: Iran is setting up vending machines to sell condoms and syringes . The country's drug czar tells its state news service that the machines will be in shelters for addicts: "Condoms, syringes, bandages and plasters will be easily accessible just by inserting a coin. This protects addicts from acquiring AIDS and hepatitis." Cost per item: about 5 cents.

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William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

Yes, you read that right: The country that brought you fundamentalist theocracy, Middle East proxy wars, presidential Holocaust denial, an implacable nuclear weapons program, and hundreds of days of Americans held hostage is practically throwing needles and rubbers at junkies.

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Why? First, because living under a fundamentalist theocracy evidently doesn't make you any less likely to get hooked on drugs. Iran estimates that some two million of its 71 million people are regular users. We're talking pot, heroin, morphine, and opium. The country consumes some 700 tons of drugs from Afghanistan alone.

Second, because even a fundamentalist theocracy has to deal with reality. According to the AFP report:

Condoms are freely available in Iranian pharmacies. The Islamic republic in the 1990s started actively promoting contraception as it encouraged families to have just two children to prevent the country's population growth increasing further. Iran has tried to change its approach to drug addicts by treating users as "people who need help" rather than throwing them into already overcrowded jails.

How do you like that? On drugs and HIV, the United States has been out-liberalized and out-pragmatized by the right wing of the Axis of Evil.

No moral equivalence intended, but ... speaking of holocaust denial ...

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